Review By Karly

Flowers, Spirts, Family and Friends. Jeanette Lynes’ The Apothecary’s Garden is a historical fiction meets gothic novel set in Belleville, Ontario.

Favourite Quote:

Allegra Trout seemed to be a Miss;
Mr. Whitman might be a gardener, or botanist;
Robert Trout enjoyed riddles.
What else?
Allegra Trout had cast a spell over the village.
Robert Trout has spellbound Lavender, causing her to buy a vast quantity of tea. (He hadn’t caused it directly, but she felt sure their exchange spurred her impulsiveness.)
What else?
They all needed some light.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

An enchanting and spirited story about the language of flowers and the supernatural power of love.

Belleville, 1860: Lavender Fitch is a twenty-eight-year-old spinster whose station in life is greatly diminished after the death of her father, the local apothecary. Her only inheritance is the family house and its extensive gardens. To make ends meet, Lavender resorts to selling flowers at the local market.

One day, a glamorous couple step off the train at the railway station. The lady is famed spirit medium Allegra Trout, who has arrived for a public show of her skills. With her striking beauty and otherworldly charms, Allegra casts a spell over Belleville from the moment she arrives. Her handsome but disfigured assistant, Robert, singles out Lavender as he makes his way through the crowded station. To her surprise, he buys her entire cart of flowers.

The arrival of the legendary medium is well-timed. Lavender has been searching for a secret cache of money and can make use of Allegra’s powers to contact her dead mother for clues to its location. As the Trouts remain in town, preparing an encore presentation of their mystical extravaganza, Robert and Lavender begin to grow close.

While the town’s anticipation for Allegra’s final show begins to mount, so do Lavender’s questions. Will the spirits make contact with the living, or is Allegra a fraud? Is Robert really Allegra’s brother, or is something else going on? Will Robert and Lavender’s relationship continue to blossom, or will it collapse under the weight of deception? Will Lavender find the money left by her mother, or will she be forced from her home and her beloved garden?

With the story taking place in Bellville, Ontario I was immediately intrigued to read Jeanette Lynnes’ novel since I have family who live there. With descriptions of the Bay of Quinte and familiar street names, I found myself thinking about the Bellville I know today and imagining what Bellville of 1860 had looked like and how different it would have been.  

As the book opens, the reader is introduced to the main character, Lavender Fitch as she pushes her cart towards the train station to sell cut flowers from her garden to make ends meet for herself and her ward, Arlo Snook, since the death of her parents. It is on this day that she first encounters the mysterious Trouts – the infamous spirit medium, Allegra and her partner Robert who have come to Bellville to entertain the crowds. 

I enjoyed Jeanette Lynes’ use of floriography (the symbolic language of flowers) to complement Lavender’s story. 

Thank you HarperCollins Canada for this ARC.